Thursday, February 8, 2018

1/28/2018 - Adult Camp Lesson 2

My lesson Sunday morning was with LH, and she also focused on keeping the quality of the canter and frustrating Penn while he builds the strength to keep his hind end under him instead of trying to splat in the counter canter.

While we warmed up, she stressed he needs to be straight: If he’s not straight he gets flingy (as noted in yesterday's cavaletti lesson). He needs to be super straight on the outside aids.

She also stressed the quality of the canter: If you’re asking for collected canter, right on. Make sure you can still drive forward. Keep the jump in the canter no matter what. Lots of inside leg to outside rein.

Look! The sit! Too bad it wasn't quite what I asked for and he ended up stuck.

She also said now is not the time to be subtle with my canter cues- once he’s confirmed I can be subtle. I need to make sure my seat and leg are very, very clear. 

She also said to stop asking for backwards when he wants to stop, but he can send himself backwards. Tap him forward. Don’t ask for rein back or anything that resembles backwards for a while (not that I was planning on that, haha).

So stuck in the canter. Must spin in. Must back up.

Basically, we’re picking apart the changes and making them better and he thinks that’s horrible. As we got rolling into the real meat of the lesson, I tried to bring him along to the changes the way GP Trainer and I did, half pass to the change. The half pass was ok (haunches leading, a new problem for us), but I lost the jump and he hopped instead of changing.

I got the canter back, and LH recommended not doing any movements, just canter on the 20m circle, and over x, change to counter canter on the adjacent 20m circle. So that's what we focused on the rest of our lesson!

Find the counter canter, and spend the first circle just keeping counter canter. Next, flop around a little bit, but keep the counter canter. Slowly start changing the bend, working on left bend in the right canter, all while keeping the counter canter.

He got all flustered when I started changing the bend and trotted, but LH praised me for keeping a very cool head when he started his halt/rein back nonsense and simply going back to it. We did some more counter canter as I tried to change the bend and he broke to trot, then tried to quit, to which LH said, “Horses are great, horses are great, dressage is fun, dressage is fun!” Just keep going!

She said that he’s not wrong in breaking, being uncomfortable and knowing something is going to happen. The counter canter on the circle is about him letting me in and me being able to adjust the canter or flop around as desired without him changing. Eventually, when I can counter canter and move around and adjust the stride and bend, and I finally do ask him to change, he’s going to leap at the chance to do it because it’ll be a relief and easier than anything else we have been doing. And it will be beautiful and lovely.

But look at this very smart walk- counter canter transition!

We took a break, then got our wires crossed about which direction to go next- LH wanted the left lead, but I heard right lead, which made sense to me since the right lead is weaker, and he did this lovely agreeable CC circle:

We went the other way, and had to work through his halt/rein back shenanigans, and got the left lead rolling. She had me keep the regular counter canter for a circle, then start bending him right. He wanted to lay on me and lean, and I had to fluff him up off the rein. She got after me to keep the jump coming, and to open my inside rein to say, “hey, over here” and he had to maintain the CC. His stride got a bit open, and when I went to collect it, he quit.

We got the counter canter back, and she reminded me to keep his poll up. “Don’t even ask for a change until he can counter canter with his poll up, in the opposite bend, with his hind legs under his body. When he can do all this and not give you the middle finger, and not stop and back up, then you can ask for the change."

In his last CC on the left lead, she had me really change his bend and sit down, and he just got stuck but never quit trying.

She encouraged me to keep going through this struggle, because he will be so much better on the other side.

I found this lesson to be super helpful, and I actually have a single half hour clip from this lesson, so here you go. Bad blogger with a too long video I know, but I've cued it up to the right lead canter work.

I videoed J's lesson for her, and we got everything packed up to go home. It was a great weekend of learning!

Penn staring longingly out his window. He and B didn't really want to go home.
Penn and B with matching sped-heads in the trailer cams.
Penn is usually mean in the trailer, but he and B seemed to be genuine friends!
The sunset was SO PRETTY. (don't worry, J took this pic, not me!)

Of course it was dark (but not too late!) by the time we got back to the barn, and we hadn't had anything go majorly wrong... so I fulfilled that by almost jack knifing my trailer. I had to aim it around a truck to get it back to its spot, and I misjudged everything and got my truck stuck in the mud while wedged between the trailer and a fence. *facepalm* Why didn't I turn on 4wd? The truck can't turn as tightly... and the fence was already a problem. So I had to unhook right there and move the trailer another day when the ground was frozen again. Sigh. At least I didn't actually jack knife it!

So close to disaster.

I found this weekend so worthwhile, cavaletti work and more homework to make the changes better. I also really liked getting 4.5 lessons (we'll call the cavaletti a .5, lol) in January. I've already noticed a big difference, so I'm trying to work out if I can financially do this camp again in February. We will see!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

1/27/2018 - Adult Camp Cavaletti Lesson

After my first lesson, I went to lunch, which had two special speakers. One was a PEMF (Pulsed electromagnetic therapy) company, and the other was for Tribute Feeds. I can't say I heard much from either company, they started talking before I got there, but the PEMF company was offering discounted treatments for riders who were in the Adult Camp.

From a PEMF website:
"PEMF therapy "exercises" the cells with a pulsing magnetic field, bringing them back into electrical balance while increasing nutrient circulation and oxygen flow. When cells are properly charged and functioning, soreness is reduced, inflammation is decreased, range of motion is increased, stress is reduced, and the body's restoring abilities are accelerated allowing the horse to perform at its personal best."
I like to test all kinds of treatments. Penn works hard, he's built downhill, and while dressage is easier for him than it was for Mikey, it's still hard. I am willing to give him any chance to train better and feel better.

The people from PEMF didn't recommend using it before a ride on a horse that tends to be lazy since the treatment can make horses VERY relaxed and even lazier. I wasn't worried about that, Penn has an excellent motor. They didn't have any more spots for after our cavaletti lesson (and there wasn't enough time Sunday morning), but they did have a spot to do it immediately, then Penn would have an hour before our Saturday afternoon lesson. I opted to have that done, and so I missed most of the Tribute Feed talk (I don't have control over what kind of grain Penn gets anyway, unless I want to buy it myself which I don't).

Penn LOVED his treatment. He was a hair suspicious about it since it was a big coil of plastic, but one "hit" of it and he was totally on board. He was exceedingly relaxed and the crossties were holding him up. At one point he started swaying and his front legs buckled a little. I'm pretty sure Penn was their best reaction of the weekend. Every other horse who was treated at least stayed awake, if not skeptical (J's horse, his skeptical face is hilarious).

They had a chair that both J and I sat in, and all we can figure it that it finds tension in the muscle and works on just that. We couldn't feel it in places that didn't already hurt.

Sleepy time while feeling good.

On to our cavaletti lesson with LH!

LH holds cavaletti Sunday every week, and I've always wanted to take a lesson, but it just hasn't panned out. If I make the 5 hour drive to GP Trainer, I want to take two lessons with her, not one and a cavaletti lesson.

Tried to get a pic of all his matching navy LeMeiux stuff.
I failed. You can't even tell the polos are navy.

We showed the horses the poles (Penn snorted and arched his neck over the blue poles down centerline), before moving on to tackling one section of poles at a time. It was kind of like a group jumping lesson, tackle all the bits and pieces, then put it all together in a course. The below pic has the poles numbered with directional arrows, but that's just for the final course. As we practiced each section, we ran through it on both the right and left rein.

The "Course"
Colors may not be accurate to real poles, lol

We started with the easiest, the two purple poles on a circle, with two trot steps in between. Penn likes to trot the poles then hurry off- LH was adamant that Penn stay straight and not hurry while lifting his forearms UP, and that I stay very upright and really hold him to a slower tempo while still sitting with my core. The idea being that he takes slower, loftier steps over the poles.

This entire lesson was very helpful for my ineffective posting trot. I have trouble keeping him up and not rushing in posting trot and this was an excellent lesson in posting, but keeping my core engaged. I noticed it carried over to being more effective in my warm up at home.

We moved on to the blue poles on centerline- two sets of two trot poles with two steps in between. I had to work a lot harder to keep him straight and sitting. Not too difficult though.

Next was the red fan, and I struggled with it. It really highlighted how I let him sneak out the outside shoulder ALL THE TIME. The first time through, I let Penn go with his tendency to get forward and running and taking bigger steps.

Weee, shoulders falling out the outside!

LH had me aim a bit more to the outside of the middle of the first pole, and then keep bringing his shoulders around. That worked a lot better for me

Better, no falling out!

For the final piece, we did the orange set of 6 trot poles. This was a big test of my ability to keep Penn straight. If he wavered at all, I'd lose any sit I managed to gain.

The final course: The orange 6 poles tracking right, the red fan tracking right then turn left and go over the green fan tracking left, the two purple poles tracking left then turn right, go up centerline over the blue poles, then turn right and go back to orange 6.

I was SO EXCITED to be part of a "group jump lesson" again! I have to say, remembering the course was initially a bit daunting because I'm wayyyyy out of practice. LH made an interesting comment that I think also pertains to jumping: Going through poles in a group gives less confident horses confidence.

We wanted to take the horses for a short walk after our lesson, so we invited the girl who shared our cavaletti lesson to come with us. We stuck B between Penn and the third rider, but he still got a bit fussy. I told J to run him up Penn's butt if he got moving. B did try to pass Penn on one side, so I cut him off by turning Penn that direction and putting Penn physically in the way. It worked, haha. We've gotta get J and B out on the trails! Overall, we had a nice walk though.

As for the PEMF? I think Penn really enjoyed getting his treatment, and it made him happy. He was very relaxed before, during and after our cavaletti lesson. He was a bit on the forehand for lesson, which goes back to, one, he already worked that day, and two, the treatment could make him lazy. He felt good the next day, and I'm sure it helped him deal with 3 rides in 24 hours (sorry bud). I do think the Pulse Treatments he gets at home are longer lasting and overall more effective though.

J and I finally dragged ourselves back to our hotel and got dinner before passing out by 10. It was a long day!!

Next up, our final lesson and the drive home!

Monday, February 5, 2018

1/27/2018 - Adult Camp Lesson 1

One of the barn ladies (we'll call her J) approached me a few months ago and asked if I wanted to go to the Adult Camp that GP Trainer's two assistant trainers were holding on 1/27-28/2018. I looked it over- $150 for: a private half hour lesson Saturday morning, lunch & lecture, a half hour group cavaletti lesson or private lunge lesson Saturday afternoon, overnight stabling, breakfast on Sunday, and a half hour private lesson Sunday. I thought it was pretty good value, especially since I'd have someone to haul down with and split some of the costs of gas and hotel.

I knew we'd have to leave super early Saturday morning since the first lessons of the weekend were in the morning (our lessons were at 11:00 and 11:30), and it's a 5 hour minimum drive down (it has taken me as long as 7 hours to make the drive home). What I didn't bank on was having to be awake by 2am, leaving my house by 2:45am to pump gas and get breakfast and be at the barn by 3:45am, to leave for VA by 4:30am. Umm.

I did make the good decision of taking a half vacation day to go to the barn Friday and clean tack, pack, and make sure Penn was bathed and spotless. I was home by 7 and in bed trying to sleep by 9! I was proud of myself.

My truck's radio. I was running 15 min late, this pic was supposed to happen at 2:45am!

We were on the road at 5 instead of 4:30 due to a grooming mishap... I tried to do a quick mane shortening with a bot fly egg removal knife so J's horse wouldn't have a hobo mane (it was too wet from his bath to do the day before). I may have sliced my pointer finger open enough to drip blood all over the barn on my way to the bathroom. That really slowed me down in getting Penn ready (you try wrapping legs without using your pointer finger while trying not to get blood all over everything).

Did you know that when you wake up at 2:15am in the dark and get your day rolling, that at about 7am, you start to wonder why the hell it is still dark and it suddenly feels like 10pm? Yea. J and I both had the same feeling around the same time, "For the love of all, WHEN IS THE SUN GOING TO RISE?!"

We got to GP Trainer's barn at 10:15am, making really good time even though we had to drive the slow windy roads in the dark. We got Penn and B off the trailer and in their stalls, then the tack room emptied in record time. We had to hurry and slap some tack on Penn, but then I was ready to ride!

Let me give some background on GP Trainer's two assistant trainers: LH is a silver medalist and Traditional B Pony Club graduate who worked for the the Hanoverian Verband in Germany, and LF is a bronze medalist who has been with GP Trainer for almost 3 years now.

I really wanted both of my lessons to be with LH because she's much further up the dressage ladder than me. I didn't get my wish, they had so many riders sign up that they both taught at the same time Saturday morning, splitting the huge indoor in half (which still left two huge squares to work in). That worked out though, I got to know LF better and she has a depth of understanding I did not expect from someone who only showed 3rd in 2017. I mean, that's a perk of being at GP Trainer's barn 24/7! She definitely gets an A+ and I'd recommend her to anyone.

I briefly went over what GP Trainer and I worked on the previous weekend (canter half pass and flying changes, then general obedience), I did a quick warm up, and we went straight to work on the canter and flying changes.

The first thing LF had me do was push the canter forward and back, being able to collect it with just my seat and have Penn go forward again immediately when I asked. Unfortunately, I don't have her commentary because she was using a headset from the other side of the ring, so here are some clips of us doing stuff to work on sit and go and sit:

10m circle on a 20m circle exercise, ending in a canter/walk.
It felt like he was sitting so much more than he actually was... why is that always the case?!

We didn't touch the easy change (left to right), but instead worked on ways to make the right to left better. I was able to get it from counter canter into the corner, but Penn would always be late behind.

I mean, at least it was pretty? Stay in rhythm, he didn't buck, he didn't drop much, why does it need to be clean too?

Then Penn just stopped picking up the counter canter altogether. We switched to tracking right and he kept picking up the left lead. *facepalm* We eventually got the right lead while tracking left, and LF had me maintain the counter canter, then put Penn in renvers while counter cantering. (unfortunately this is when my randomly selected fellow adult camper left the ring and stopped videoing)

Me: Walk on, then counter canter.
Penn: I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request.

Ohhh Penn did not like that one bit, he got hoppy and jumpy and oh so frustrated. Why wouldn't I just ask him to change already?! The goal of the exercise being: keep him up and hoppy while keeping him collected, and most importantly frustrated that he has to do all this hard work so that when I finally do ask for a change, he goes, "OH THANK GOODNESS, YES I'LL CHANGE!"

We never got back to trying a change, but more importantly we worked on keeping the quality of the canter.

LF got to see his naughty behavior too, "No, [Penn stomps horsey foot] I will not keep going!" She said something along the lines of, "He's so sweet and cute, and GP Trainer always says what a delightful horse he is when we discuss lessons, and she didn't say anything about him this last time. I did not expect this from him!" I joked that he showed her his naughty side last week, so he didn't earn his delightful horse comments!

We wrapped up, and J came in with her horse, B. J was a bit nervous, she's only had B for 6 months, 3 of those were at our barn where she realized how inadequate her "instructor" was at teaching and preparing someone for horse ownership (I've found her last "instructor" likes to keep her clients in the dark about horse ownership options). B was sold to J out of the lesson program, and he was supposedly a good traveler (turns out he's a wonderful traveler, as advertised), but J hasn't taken him anywhere. I ended up hanging out for a bit in the middle of our square as moral support, which was cool. LF got her moving and working again, and eventually we were able to wander back to the barn. J had a good confidence building lesson and was much more comfortable by the end!

Next time, PEMF treatment and a cavaletti lesson!